QR Codes have been around in some fashion since they were introduced by a Japanese company back in 1994 for the purpose of labeling automotive parts. You’ll likely recognize the mix of black squares that allow someone to scan the code with their device.
At some point, restaurants began to use the codes in order to allow people to more quickly access their menus or pay their bill. The idea is simple and on the surface appears to be a win for the restaurant since they no longer have to print menus.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of QR Codes took off which made since. It allow people to access the restaurant menu without having to handle the same menu as other people, thus reducing the spread of disease. I don’t know that people ever loved them, but I believe we accepted them as part of the process of getting things moving again.
Now that we’ve largely moved past the COVID-19 experience and we’re trying our best to look ahead, I’d like to suggest restaurants reconsider using QR Codes for menus. I’m going to lay out a few reasons below in hopes that owners consider the long-term impact they may be having on their business and reputation.
People go out to eat for many reasons, but one of those involves spending time with people they care about. When a restaurant is visited, people are generally looking to have a great time and enjoy the company of others. While we use a lot of technology, I’d like to think we make an effort to put things down for the time we’re with others and just enjoy the experience of being unplugged and in the company of friends or family.
So, image the impact of forcing people to pick up their devices and spend more time in front of their screens scrolling through the menu. Especially when that menu is large and not designed to be displayed on a small screen. It’s not a good experience. What’s worst, is it takes guest out of the dining experience and locks them back into their digital experience that they wanted to escape.
Recently, I came across an article which highlighted a woman who ran into problems after scanning a QR Code in a restaurant and the $60,000 bill. Her situation was sorted out, but many other risk exist with the use of QR Codes. The ACLU highlighted this risk when it posted an article about the loss of privacy associated with using the codes. One part of their post said “Manipulating us into scanning QR codes instead of ordering from a physical menu is a way for these companies to achieve their dream of online-offline tracking by inserting all the machinery of the online advertising ecosystem between you and your food.”
Another article from back in April of 2023 highlighted the impact of using QR Codes by pointing out the loss of business to restaurants when customers are frustrated. The article goes on to say “Every time you go to a restaurant with QR code based menus, the user interface is just bad – makes me feel like “Why am I being confused purposefully?”
It’s our hope that we can get back to a place where the restaurant experience represents more than technical efficiencies at the exspense of the customer. Let’s ditch the QR Codes for menus. The only time I want to use my phone during my time in the restaurant is when my food comes out looking amazing and I can’t wait to share it with the world. I’ll take a few shots, shoot a short video clip for our Instagram Page, Facebook, and Blog post, but after that, I want to sit the phone down and get back to humanizing with others.
When you go out to your next restaurant, ask for a printed menu. Enjoy the ability to look at what they offer with having to scroll or strain your eyes trying to read tiny letters. Order your meal and enjoy your experience.
The Taste of 575 Food and Dining Platform is part of the Corridor Publishing suite of brands. One part of that family of brands is Corridor Printing which provides printing services to restauarants. That includes printed menus, signs, and other print related products.